Don't presume, it makes a pre out of you and me February 27, 2012 4:38 PM   Subscribe

In answering AskMes, can we please try harder not to make presumptions that are absent from the question's details, especially if we are using that presumption as a jumping-off point to scold the asker?

I see this a lot, but the recent Askme that's just rife with presumptions and scolds is this one, and although there's a few examples, this answer especially grinds my gears. It's sort of a triple whammy of presuming something that may not be true, using that presumption to scold the asker, and not really answering the question the asker asked.

I grant that given the context and phrasing of the questions, it seems likely the asker knew her supervisor was married. But it's also plausible she (in fact, we don't even know if it's a she as another answerer pointed out) did NOT know. But that won't stop some of us from mounting our high horse and yelling at the asker.

It seems (speaking of presumptions) some people get a sort of joy out of scolding people on the internet. Perhaps "tough love" shouldn't be a high priority when addressing internet strangers who are our metafilter peers.

"People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty." – Richard J. Needham
posted by mreleganza to Etiquette/Policy at 4:38 PM (74 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I deleted the scolding comment, fyi.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


jessamyn: I deleted the scolding comment, fyi.

FYI: In MetaTalk, spoliation of evidence is the intentional or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a MetaTalk thread.
posted by gman at 4:47 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jessamyn knows due diligence, man. Don't mess with her.
posted by Splunge at 4:51 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was joking, by the way. On reading it it seems sharp and nasty. It wasn't meant that way.
posted by Splunge at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2012


Well, this'll be a fun MeTa, since there's no way of knowing what the problem was, exactly...
posted by heyho at 4:53 PM on February 27, 2012


Put another way: yes I agree, scolding comments are totally annoying and unhelpful. We will delete them if they are outright not answering the question, as many aren't, but have a harder time when they're sort of woven into an otherwise helpful answer (which is what I thought that original comment was at first glance and was incorrect).

I know there are a lot of people for whom certain question press many buttons but it would be terrific if those people could speak to the emotions the topic creates in them without their comments being steeped in that same emotion.

The problem in this case was a commenter basically saying a slightly longer version of "Oh you're angry how do you think the guy's wife feels?" which was sort of beside the point of answering the OPs question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:56 PM on February 27, 2012


Well, this'll be a fun MeTa, since there's no way of knowing what the problem was, exactly...

Well, to paraphrase the deleted comment, it was along the lines of, "You jerk, why did you get involved with a married man? You feel rage, huh? Why don't you ask his wife how much rage she's got?"

But without refreshing and then rereading the whole thread to see what's still there, there were a lot of answers more tame and subtle that still assume she KNOWINGLY got involved with a married man and take a moment to tut-tut that. And it's a phenomenon I see more than rarely, so that's why I wanted to take it to Meta.
posted by mreleganza at 4:58 PM on February 27, 2012


How did I know this one would end up in MeTa? I think it's obnoxious that some posters assume that anyone who points out that the fact that she engaged in a consensual relationship with an adult, and that that should affect how she handles herself going forward, is scolding her. Shit like this- I notice there are some MeFites in this thread that are coming down hard on you for the naive mistake you made. Perhaps these people have never made a naive mistake themselves. I think it's possible people are projecting their own stuff onto other posters (in AskMeta? surely not!).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:17 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems obvious from the question that the OP knew her supervisor was married.

I mean, it's not my marriage and I don't care, and I'm in favor of stepping away from the laptop when an asker pisses me off, but there's no question that that's the best factual interpretation of the question as written.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:25 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


But without refreshing and then rereading the whole thread to see what's still there, there were a lot of answers more tame and subtle that still assume she KNOWINGLY got involved with a married man and take a moment to tut-tut that. And it's a phenomenon I see more than rarely, so that's why I wanted to take it to Meta.

I'm going to assume the answer in question wasn't actually answering the question (hence the deletion), but in general terms it seems that if the asker is going to put "Feel free to interpret as you will" in their question, that's telling answerers to fill in any blanks/missing information with supposition/speculation and it's kind of inevitable that some are going to do so in an uncharitable way.
posted by juv3nal at 5:34 PM on February 27, 2012


This is textbook example of Metatalk post getting derailed by using a single poor example to try and prove a point. Most of this thread will probably consist of people discussing whether she knew knew was married and when.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 PM on February 27, 2012


Wait wait... Was the question changed or edited? Because the OP clearly states that the supervisor is married:

Then my supervisor abruptly stopped emailing me, and I was eventually told that he was going to spend time on his work and family (oh yeah, married supervisor). Fine.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:54 PM on February 27, 2012


No we didn't edit the question. I think people are talking about whether she knew the supervisor was married beforehand.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the metaOP wanted it to be a metathread about scolding askOPs, they should have omitted all the nonsense about making assumptions that might not be accurate.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2012


Or are we just arguing at which point in time she knew?

Does it really matter?
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:56 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 PM on February 27, 2012


It doesn't really matter with regard to answering the question, though.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:15 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are we just supposed to flag these kind of comments and...oh never mind.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I dunno; I agree it's annoying, but I disagree it's a problem. I generally flag comments that are kind of bullshitty, tearing into the asker without appropriate question-answering, and I've also found the mods are super-dooper fast and conscientious about deleting them speedily and with extreme prejudice.
posted by smoke at 6:19 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course it does. If she's blinding mad after two years and wanting to talk to him, it's worth mentioning her own actions in the relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


In answering AskMes, can we please try harder not to make presumptions that are absent from the question's details....

OK, so I mostly answer questions about science and home improvement, but even there, people routinely ask questions and leave out huge swaths of relevant detail that is vital to giving them any kind of meaningful answer. (I usually couch my assumptions in a series of "if scenario then suggested solution" answers.

This is only going to be worse for anonymous questions (where the asker can't really respond to clarifying questions) or those about things that are mostly subjective (e.g. DTMFA - Y/N?).

...especially if we are using that presumption as a jumping-off point to scold the asker?

This is the problem and you're right, it's a bad thing (tm). Unfortunately there's probably more bandwidth sunk into self righteous chest thumping than on-line porn and music piracy combined so I'm not sure how much good this request is going to do. As a wise man once said (in a slightly re-scripted Boy Scouts publication) "Flag it and move on."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:25 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, Kid Charlemagne - I have a home improvement science question about on-line self-righteous pirate chest thumping musical porn...

Where can I get some?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:31 PM on February 27, 2012


The tough love answers in that thread are interesting (or maddening). They seem to discount the power relationship in order to focus on the OP's bad behavior. Both are important, but there is going to be disagreement about which one is more important. If one disregards the power issue then the question can be read as much more entitled than I think it reads if you pay attention to the power issue at play. I think that fuels some of the tough love.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


How did I know this one would end up in MeTa? I think it's obnoxious that some posters assume that anyone who points out that the fact that she engaged in a consensual relationship with an adult, and that that should affect how she handles herself going forward, is scolding her.

She entitled her questions "Dumb mistakes" and it included the phrase "I made the stupid, stupid mistake of getting involved with him almost two years ago..." So I think it's pretty safe to say that she knows what she did was wrong, and the moralizing and, yes, scolding on the part of the answerers are unnecessary, moot, and probably more for the pleasure of the answerer more than the benefit the asker. She wasn't asking if getting involved with a married man was wrong or not. She knows it was. She makes that clear.

But again, that is assuming that she knew he was married when they snogged....

It seems obvious from the question that the OP knew her supervisor was married.

It's not obvious to me. Likely, yes. Obvious, no. Lord knows the answerateriat has gotten things wrong more "obvious" than this.

If the metaOP wanted it to be a metathread about scolding askOPs, they should have omitted all the nonsense about making assumptions that might not be accurate.

Well, yes. It's two issues I have here, but they are closely related and in this case, totally related. The OP made it clear she felt what she did was "stupid" and was not asking, "is what I did stupid?" I realize that some questions amount to "Was I in the wrong here?" or even "Let me have it!" but this was not one of them, was not part of the question she was asking.
posted by mreleganza at 6:39 PM on February 27, 2012


From your post I can tell that you're in Canada and thus oversensitive to scolding. Here in America, we have tough love which gets people off welfare and health care and toonies.
posted by klangklangston at 6:40 PM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Toonies??
posted by heyho at 6:42 PM on February 27, 2012


Must. Not. Register. Answerateriat Sockpuppet. Must. Not. Register. Answerateriat Sockpuppet...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:44 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit confused about this idea that the scolding answers were deleted when there are a shitload of scolding answers that caused me, for one, to also experience moments of blinding rage. If ever there was an AskMe that incites a deep hatred within me for certain answerers, it's that one.

"I think it's obnoxious that some posters assume that anyone who points out that the fact that she engaged in a consensual relationship with an adult, and that that should affect how she handles herself going forward, is scolding her."

Here's a sentence from your own answer:

"He chooses to cheat on his wife and lie, and, well, you chose to be a part of that."

If you wanted to say that the fact that (in your, meaning TPS's, opinion) this relationship was consensual it means that this has a bearing on how she handles herself going forward, you should have actually said that. Instead, what you said, was a scolding of her for not holding herself accountable for the mistake she made in getting involved with a liar. Dress that up as you wish; it's still scolding her.

And, by the way, I've never been someone who has chosen to get involved with my married boss. Or anything whatsoever like that. So, just maybe, my starkly different response isn't the result of me improperly projecting from my own experience, as you imply when you write "I think it's possible people are projecting their own stuff onto other posters (in AskMeta? surely not!)." It's ironic that you're, er, presumptuously scolding people for their presumptions.

Here's some other supposedly non-scolding comments from that thread:

• "It seems to me that you are just as at fault as he is. You knew he was married. So your rage should be directed at yourself as much as at him. You can't fairly consider yourself victimized when you knew the score from the beginning. [...] Basically, you are worried that someone else will show the same poor judgment you showed."

• "You made a choice "eyes wide open" and it's all hit the fan. This was a formula for disaster from the beginning [...] You made a bad choice. Your ego is bruised. Let it go and get on with your program."

• "You are an adult, you made a bad choice (that hopefully you won't repeat) and directing your anger at him is not productive. This happened two years ago, is there something that has happened recently in your life to have triggered your rage so that you are directing it at him instead of it?"

• "You willingly got involved with him, right? You don't say you felt pressured or anything. So you made the same mistake as him; and it seems hypocritical to hold yourself to a lower standard. [...] This didn't "happen" to you. You were a participant. [...] ...but you chose to mix your professional and private life. You should simply hope that other people in your position are more prudent than you were, but beyond that, their personal life is none of your concern. It's been two years. Move on."

• "You had a (mostly) emotional affair with a married man, and now you're angry because he's a cad? He's a married man that was cheating with you. Whether it was his first time, or his fiftieth, he's still a lying liar who cheats. Your lesson here is not to get involved in shady dealings (like illicit affairs) where someone is being intentionally deceived (the wife) because when you knowingly engage in behavior that will hurt someone else were they to find out, the person you hurt most is yourself."

• "Your problem, not his. Do not discuss it with him, he's made it clear that he wishes all this to remain in the past. By all means, allow it to go away. What he has done or will do with other people is none of your business. Swallowing your feelings and dealing with them privately is an unavoidable consequence of electing to get involved with someone in this way, and then choosing to stay in the job afterward. By all means, get help in dealing with your anger, but don't mistake it for a problem that needs to be shared with him or others in your department."

• "You knew what the status was going in. You had a big flag that he was an opportunist and a liar - and you ignored it."

• "You're mad because he wasn't cheating with you ethically enough? Take it on the chin and chalk it up to experience."

• "It's kind of like saying your drug dealer ripped you off by doing some shady math. He is obviously unethical- why be surprised to find out he is EVEN MORE unethical? I don't get it. Not to be unsympathetic but maybe just use this as a learning experience and move on."

• "this was years ago. you kissed him. you have blinding rage against him? I doubt it. You have blinding rage against someone else who he reminds you of. On a personal level, drop the plan to tell anyone and work on who is really making you angry."

Not each of those examples are equally scolding. Some are blatant, others are more subtle about making the argument that the OP is avoiding recognizing that they are responsible for what happened and what they are feeling. The scolding isn't necessarily in the context of making the initial decision (though some of the examples do scold explicitly in this way), but in the context of saying, in one form or another, what are you whining about this for? This is your own fault. It's completely delegitimizing of most or all of the feelings that the OP is experiencing; asserting that whatever fault the supervisor shares, the OP is responsible for feeling hurt and rageful, not him. That's scolding. Period.

An exercise for interested readers: guess and then try to verify your guess about the proportion of the above quotes that were written by men, and then compare that to the thread as a whole. Are the ratios equal in the two instances? (Hint: no.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:54 PM on February 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Here's some other supposedly non-scolding comments from that thread

I'm not sure who was calling them non-scolding. All I said was the answer that was flagged a lot and clearly was only scolding and not answering the question was deleted. For whatever reason not a lot of comments in that thread were flagged and I didn't just read through it looking for things that needed deleting. I axed one of the comments you quoted above IF, since it seemed to fall under the same general header but once something is in MetaTalk we're usually a bit more hesitant to delete comments after the fact since they're already topics for discussion. I feel like pulling really aggravating sections of comments out of the overall comments is sort of not cricket. I mean you're welcome to do it but it just stirs shit up more than it helps solve a problem and if what we're trying to do is really solve problems in MeTa and not just all be aggravated together, there are better ways to do that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:59 PM on February 27, 2012


Toonies, how you pay for legal weed and gay marriages.
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would like to scold the OP of this MeTa. Because clearly presuming makes a pres out of you and me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:08 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, yes. It's two issues I have here, but they are closely related and in this case, totally related.

You have an excellent overall point to make about AskMe answers. You're bogging it down by getting into semantics about one particular question. Sticking to the overall point, which would apply to many AskMe's would make this MeTa more usual and potentially productive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 PM on February 27, 2012


I was kinda surprised that so many answers went in the direction of divvying up blame. I mean "cheater" doesn't always mean "serial cheater," does it? And it probably does kinda bite to find out that your cheater actually falls in the (much worse) latter category?

Also, just because the OP went into the relationship with eyes open doesn't mean she forfeits the right to recognize later that actually the guy's behavior was calculating and predatory rather than a one-time romantic slip-up.

The real mystery is not why she would find this new information enraging, but why in the face of it she would still look up to the guy as a professional mentor. But, eh... guess people compartmentalize.
posted by torticat at 7:18 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, a lot of responses to that one, youch. Pretty unkind.

Personally, I have been trying harder recently to just be a more compassionate, less-judgy person. (I don't know to what degree of success; I'm still totally a jerk.) It has made reading AskMe, my favored workday procrastination hobby, sort of full of peril. I am startled by how many people primarily seem to want to respond to questions from a place of "Asking to be judged, eh?!? I can do that." instead of from... other places. I see a lot of things going off in weird, unkind directions, and I don't want to be a person who's always appointing herself as the meanness police, but man, there are usually hurting people on the other end of those pixels, so I don't feel okay pretending it isn't happening, either. (Yes, I do flag things, but sometimes you get runs of threads where a mean tone gets established early and sticks around for good.)

Clearly, people get a lot of satisfaction out of giving judgy answers. That's only human. But since AskMetafilter exists as a place for questioners to find high-quality answers, and judgy answers, even the Dr. Phil tough-love kind, often don't really contain much information beyond "you're doing it wrong", I don't know that they're really in line with what I perceive (perhaps incorrectly) to be the implicit mandate of the place.

But I don't know what you do about that.

(Except maybe start a new thing called JudgeMetaFilter, which I bet would be really popular, actually.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:25 PM on February 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


"I feel like pulling really aggravating sections of comments out of the overall comments is sort of not cricket. I mean you're welcome to do it but it just stirs shit up more than it helps solve a problem and if what we're trying to do is really solve problems in MeTa and not just all be aggravated together, there are better ways to do that."

Yah, I understand that. As upset as I was at those answers, I wouldn't have done what I did in my comment if it weren't for the particular combination of you saying that scolding answers are not really kosher (unless they otherwise include helpful answers and thus are ambiguous in terms of deletion) in conjunction with TPS that there wasn't really much (or any) scolding going on in that thread.

Therefore...here's a long list of answers that seem to me to be more or less saying stop whining about what you're feeling, you're responsible for what happened, which IMO just doesn't clear the bar for constructive AskMe answers. That they're so provocative and, to some of us, extremely offensive is just adding insult to injury.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:48 PM on February 27, 2012


It's sometimes cathartic to give the answer you think would have been appropriate, to the very highest degree possible, while silently calling fire and brimstone down on the heads of all the answerers who did it wrong.

At least, for me.

(But seriously, this post made me go and try to give answering the question nicely a shot.)
posted by SMPA at 7:58 PM on February 27, 2012


While I have no doubt that there would be some scolding in that question no matter what, I do think that a lot of the scolding in that particular thread was indirectly produced by this line from the OP:

I have no intention of leaving my apprenticeship -- I will be done with it in a couple years. I have no intention of finding a new supervisor -- this one does a good job, is attentive, is helpful, pushes me to work hard, etc. We have a very collegial relationship.

So, we have this story about a person who has an affair with a married supervisor. She's upset about the situation that develops after that. She posts an AskMe asking for help dealing with her blinding rage at the supervisor. And she takes the only two things that could improve the situation in any concrete way off the table from the beginning.

At this point, what helpful answers are available? The only thing that people answering the question can supply is some strategy for getting rid of some of the rage. Re-framing the situation in light of her own culpability is one way to do that - she might be less mad at him if she takes responsibility for her own part in what happened. She also might not, but there are really very few options available to her within the guidelines she has laid out, and that's one.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:58 PM on February 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Ask is sort of like the sideshow of Metafilter. It's packed to bursting with bright-eyed, innocent rubes, and those who feed on this. It's totally predictable, and (deep-down) you know that you really shouldn't watch. But because it services a genuine need, it's the engine which generates the revenue to finance the "loftier" parts of the operation.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:03 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich, the addressing the OP's self-righteousness is at the heart of the question:

am I forfeiting any opportunity to call him out on his bad behavior?

Part of the motivation here is that she wants to denounce the supervisor for actions they, by their own admission- willingly participated in. This is a fairly significant issue to deal with in the question of whether they should go after the supervisor.

Further, the question also touches on the "blinding rage" the OP feels:

I have blinding rage towards him from time to time. Not enough to hinder my work, but enough to keep my mind off my work and on this for amounts of time that I can't afford to lose on spiraling.

You seem to be of the opinion that all feelings should be validated. I think that's a pretty harmful world view, but fine. But the OP right there is stating her rage is a problem. I think that if the OP took a step back and recognized their own responsibility for the situation, so of this blinding rage that is costing the OP important time, could be reevaluated. You are complaining that people are questioning the OP's feelings, but the feelings are part of the problem. What's a helpful response to you, "get even angrier!"?

My post was one the one's you quoted in your list of supposedly "scolding" posts. I'll leave aside that fact that you obliquely called me and everyone else you quoted a sexist. I will note that you were ellipsis heavy; and you left out some caveats and tone-softeners that I intentionally wrote. I don't think the OP should be ashamed, and while I did indicate that the OP made a mistake, I did not blame them. I find the difference significant, even if that makes your projected victimization a poorer fit.

I find the answers that assume the OP is a passive observer, without accountability or agency to be a lot more offensive that any thing you're claiming to see.
posted by spaltavian at 8:06 PM on February 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


And she takes the only two things that could improve the situation in any concrete way off the table from the beginning.

Three, if you include, "I do not want this to be public at all. No one knows and I want to keep it that way for personal and professional reasons." What else is there, beyond dealing with the situation on a personal, internal level?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:07 PM on February 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Therefore...here's a long list of answers that seem to me to be more or less saying stop whining about what you're feeling, you're responsible for what happened, which IMO just doesn't clear the bar for constructive AskMe answers. That they're so provocative and, to some of us, extremely offensive is just adding insult to injury.

Extremely offensive? What?

They're not saying stop whining, they're saying that feeling less rage-y is easier when you don't think of yourself as a victim. You may not agree but it's solid advice.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:15 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a nicer way of putting that overall idea young rope-rider than was evidenced in the thread. It's unpacking the causes of the rage, the problem emotion the OP is confronting. I don't think that sense comes through many of the thread comments though - which came at the 'problem' from an attacking mentality. I was put off by the overly aggressive comments in that thread and I am kinda glad to see this meta.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:38 PM on February 27, 2012


Ragged Richard, you wrote:

"And she takes the only two things that could improve the situation in any concrete way off the table from the beginning. At this point, what helpful answers are available? The only thing that people answering the question can supply is some strategy for getting rid of some of the rage. Re-framing the situation in light of her own culpability is one way to do that - she might be less mad at him if she takes responsibility for her own part in what happened. She also might not, but there are really very few options available to her within the guidelines she has laid out, and that's one."

Yeah, I can see how you are concluding this, but I think you're mistaken. I strongly disagree that she's taken off the table the only two possible solutions that "could improve the situation in any concrete way". And, if I'm correct, then your assertion that there's not much else less to do than to suggest she turn her anger inward (which is what your suggestion amounts to) is false.

Furthermore, you—and others—phrase this as that she should "take responsibility for her own part in what happened". Which is really, really weird given that she wrote "I made the stupid, stupid mistake of getting involved with him almost two years ago".

The assumption, then, is necessarily that the rage she's feeling toward him is misdirected. Some people assert this explicitly.

And, you know, what's a little weird to me is that even if we were to take for granted that there's no other culpability on his part besides the shared culpability implied by the assumption that this was a fully consensual relationship, that doesn't actually exculpate him for lying to her. The claim is that she should have expected him to lie to her and therefore he's not actually to blame for her being hurt because he lied to her...and while I do acknowledge that a lot of people do generally reason this way about stuff (You left your front door unlocked? Then you should have expected to be burglarized and so you have no business being angry with the burglar)—that is, that every harm you conceivably could have expected and thus prevented then becomes your own fault if you suffer it—most people keep this within pretty narrow limits and for the most part are perfectly fine with saying that when you forget to lock your door you might ought to be a little angry with yourself, but that doesn't get the burglar off the hook. Sure, you ought to expect a liar to lie to you. But, you know, that doesn't at all make the liar's act of lying any less wrong, or make you have any less of a right to be angry at a liar for lying.

I formulated this principle a long time ago in the context of sexual violence, where women in particular have been traditionally blamed for failing to prevent someone else from raping them, as the axiom that moral responsibility is not zero-sum. If two people are involved in killing someone, that doesn't make each person half as morally responsible. If one person has a responsibility to protect themselves, but fails to do so, and another person attacks them, that doesn't mean that the two things cancel each other and no one has any moral responsibility (or worse, and perversely, that all the responsibility accrues to you and away from the attacker). In fact, you just can't add and subtract moral responsibility this way. It's a fundamental fallacy.

But people often attempt to do so, most especially when, for various other reasons, they want to deny one person moral responsibility and place that responsibility onto the other. Thus there's this from spaltavian above:

"I find the answers that assume the OP is a passive observer, without accountability or agency to be a lot more offensive that any thing you're claiming to see."

The only way you, spaltavian, can believe that any of the answers assume that the OP is "passive observer, without accountability or agency" is if the answers that validate her anger at the supervisor must then necessarily invalidate any anger she feels about herself. But, you know, I don't think she's any less responsible for failing to protect herself from how he hurt her because I think he's responsible for hurting her. And because you don't understand that this is possible, you assume in addition that I have the opinion that all feelings should be validated, which I don't.

the young rope-rider writes:

"They're not saying stop whining, they're saying that feeling less rage-y is easier when you don't think of yourself as a victim. You may not agree but it's solid advice."

No, some of them are saying stop whining and some of them are blaming the OP for the hurt and anger that she's feeling. But, to your point, it's not true that feeling hurt and feeling angry at the person that hurt you is equivalent to "think[ing] of yourself as a victim". I have institutional experience in avoiding/changing feeling victimized to something that is empowering. And, you know, that doesn't necessarily involve a) not feeling hurt or angry, or b) directing hurt and anger inward by holding onseself responsible for it. If the point was to help the OP stop feeling like a victim, then there's volumes of useful advice that doesn't take the form, you should have known what was going to happen, suck it up.

Bottom line: while most people have some tendency toward zero-sum thinking with regard to moral responsibility, only a few people are extreme and consistent about this and most of the rest of us are far less, er, rigid and, um, simpleminded about it. And yet, occasionally, there are certain kinds of issues/situations about which people are extremely tempted to very strongly reason about moral responsibility in a zero-sum fashion. Rape is one of them; but, fortunately, this is less true today than it was thirty years ago. But, apparently, becoming involved with someone who has demonstrated infidelity is such a situation; and even when this occurs in the context of undeniably unequal power relationship, there's still a very strong tendency for many people to, well, blame the victim. Because, well, it was her fault for getting involved in the situation, right? What were you doing getting drunk at a fraternity party? Stop whining and being angry, you basically asked for it. You knew, or should have known, what you were getting into.

Yeah, getting drunk at a fraternity party and going to some guy's room, to take that example, is actually not a smart thing to do. So what? That person will have to deal with her own responsibility for failing to protect herself. Just as all of us do in comparable situations, whether that responsibility, and that putative failure, are more or less self-evident. In all cases, that has not a damn thing to do with the moral responsibility of the person who decided to assault another person. It's just not the case that the two things cancel out, either totally or partly. It doesn't work like that. The person who assaults another person likes to think it does. The idea most dear to the heart of a con artist is that the mark is totally responsible for what happens to them. Of course they like to think that. Practically everyone who ever does something that hurts someone else that they knew they oughtn't to have done has at one time or another thought that, well, really, the responsibility is the other person's because they should have kept me from doing it. But this sort of habitual thinking is in some ways the hallmark of the predator.

The OP has every right to be hurt and angry that she was lied to. This is, by the way, completely independent of the more important question of whether the relationship truly was consensual given the very strong and unambiguous power imbalance. No, putting that completely aside, and thinking about this solely in terms of any random person getting involved with someone who is cheating on another person, regardless of the responsibility they have for doing something that is strongly predictive of their being lied to—and, probably, cheated upon—it doesn't in any way diminish the responsibility of the person who does the lying and cheating. And, in such a situation, the person who is hurt, who is lied to and/or cheated upon, should be hurt and angry at both themselves and the other person. Because both have two completely different kinds of moral responsibility for that hurt.

So, yes, all those answers are flawed in numerous respects. They scold the OP on the presumption that this is the only solution left. But that's not true. They scold the OP because they think that the OP doesn't have a right to be angry at the supervisor, because the OP is responsible for her own failure to avoid being hurt and one cancels the other. And that's not true, either. To whatever degree to which they are about empowerment and abandoning a victim mentality, they assume that doing so necessarily involves not being hurt and not being angry at the person who hurt her. That's false. They assume that the OP isn't taking responsibility for her own hurt. But she says in her post that she is. So that's false, too.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:17 PM on February 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I liked the part where the OP suffered. I had nothing to say that would make it any better, though.
posted by planet at 10:05 PM on February 27, 2012


Hey, IF, I really don't appreciate you bringing up rape in comparison with this and repeating lots of victim-blaming language and details about specific kinds of rape. It was really unnecessary. It's really frustrating as someone who has experienced sexual assault that every third internet argument has to involve rape, and it's especially irritating in the context of an argument that is allegedly in the defense of victims (or women, or something.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:19 PM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


caused me, for one, to also experience moments of blinding rage. If ever there was an AskMe that incites a deep hatred within me for certain answerers, it's that one.

Blinding rage? Deep hatred? Rape comparisons? Perhaps you should just stay away from AskMe altogether and get some anger management counseling. It's just a website, dude.
posted by Ardiril at 10:22 PM on February 27, 2012


"I axed one of the comments you quoted above IF, since it seemed to fall under the same general header but once something is in MetaTalk we're usually a bit more hesitant to delete comments after the fact since they're already topics for discussion."

I hope it was the drug dealer one. As a former drug dealer, I'd like to remind everyone that the vast majority of drug dealers are utilitarian liberal capitalists whose actions are firmly in line with a coherent ethical standard.
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Hey, IF, I really don't appreciate you bringing up rape in comparison with this and repeating lots of victim-blaming language and details about specific kinds of rape. It was really unnecessary. It's really frustrating as someone who has experienced sexual assault that every third internet argument has to involve rape, and it's especially irritating in the context of an argument that is allegedly in the defense of victims (or women, or something.)"

As someone who's worked in rape crisis, I deeply appreciate that this this was uncomfortable for you, and I regret that.

However, I strongly disagree that the comparison is invalid and I strongly believe that survivors of workplace sexual harassment will disagree with you about whether it's an appropriate comparison and whether a discussion of things like victim-blaming language is appropriate. Because I think, as it happens, that discussions of victim-blaming language is extremely appropriate on this topic. This was not merely a discussion about someone who had a romantic relationship with someone who was cheating on another person. It was a discussion of someone who had a romantic relationship with someone who has enormous power over their life, more so even than is the case in many other such situations (this particular person is being mentored by this person in a fashion that has direct consequences for the rest of their career), and which the OP described as a long-standing behavior about which there is wide agreement that it occurs and that there exists even a prior example of a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit.

If you can understand why someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in the context of rape, then I think you could at least attempt to comprehend who someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in this context, which some of us believe is another example of sexual assault.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:46 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Planet, I get that this was a joke, but it's not really within the fair-play realm of needling other users that exists in some instances, in some forms, sometimes on the site.

I'd ask everyone to remember that when Ask Metafilter concerns get brought up here it plunges the Ask OP into the often prickly, scary world of Metatalk when they had no intention or suspicion of being featured here, and I think our behavior and commentary needs to be mindful of that, even when the posts are anonymous... because hey, it was never what the poster signed up for, and it still hurts to be attacked even if your user name isn't attached to the query.

I think everyone already recognizes the problem with this, so I'll just appeal to your better natures to sheathe the sharp knives in these circumstances.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:30 AM on February 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh man, THIS so hard. I asked an anonymous question some months ago and you would not BELIEVE the weird baggage people brought into their answers to scold me with. And then, because nobody actually reads the entire question, further answerers thought that baggage was something I'd actually said and scolded me further.

I basically had to just abandon the question because none of the answers were even vaguely related anymore.
posted by DU at 4:14 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember a couple of years ago I had a personal problem I was considering putting on AskMe, but spent so long trying to figure out how to phrase it such as to avoid scoldy non-answers that the problem sort of became a moot thing and I stopped caring because the worst had already happened. So, win-win I guess?
posted by Ritchie at 5:10 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


haven't we all slept with a married man a time or two? glass houses etc.
posted by desjardins at 6:57 AM on February 28, 2012


*adds to bucket list*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


haven't we all slept with a married man a time or two? glass houses etc.

Oh, thousands of times. Otherwise being married would be pretty awful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:06 AM on February 28, 2012 [19 favorites]


If you can understand why someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in the context of rape, then I think you could at least attempt to comprehend who someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in this context, which some of us believe is another example of sexual assault.

Speaking of making presumptions. At no point in the original Ask does the OP indicate that she felt pressured in any way, or that this was anything she didn't want. And recall that she didn't even sleep with him - the most that the two of them did was kiss. So this is a case of mostly emotional involvement between two consenting adults. One of them happened to be in a position of power, true, but nothing in the question indicates that this power was abused or put into play in any way. I guess you can call this sexual assault, if you really want, but it seems like that involves broadening the definition of "sexual assault" so far that it's not really a meaningful expression anymore.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:38 AM on February 28, 2012


At no point in the original Ask does the OP indicate that she felt pressured in any way, or that this was anything she didn't want. And recall that she didn't even sleep with him - the most that the two of them did was kiss. So this is a case of mostly emotional involvement between two consenting adults. One of them happened to be in a position of power, true, but nothing in the question indicates that this power was abused or put into play in any way.

I disagree with you. I don't think the power difference was ancillary, or that it needed to have been explicitly stated for it to have come into play. People frequently, very frequently, develop emotional attachments to people who have some power over them. This is particularly true when that power is associated with caring relationships, as it is in this case. That this guy has repeatedly had similar relationships with those he oversees reinforces the notion that there may be more going on here than "simple" attraction. As I said above, overlooking that power relationship (as you do here) makes this appear much more consensual than it does to those of us who think the power relationship has everything to do with what happened here (including the OP's sense of betrayal, which looks entitled to those who think the power difference does not matter, and looks like a recognition of the full violation to those who think the power difference matters.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Therefore...here's a long list of answers that seem to me to be more or less saying stop whining about what you're feeling, you're responsible for what happened, which IMO just doesn't clear the bar for constructive AskMe answers. That they're so provocative and, to some of us, extremely offensive is just adding insult to injury.

"Let it go" is an acceptable answer. You might not like their rationale, but A Zen path would take her to the same place. Release the negative emotion of the past, detach. No need to bring in victim blaming or sexism.

Only you can stop being offended, Ivan, let it go.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:56 AM on February 28, 2012


can I just say that people who scold and judge on AskMe are worthy of the utmost scorn and derision? but that strategy probably doesn't work on them since they typically are projecting their own scoldy judgy experiences onto AskMe. I've said something slightly more charitable on this topic before but the wagging nagging shame brigade makes me sick, and I react with the same sort of disgust that I feel when watching Rick Santorum talk about what relationships are and aren't acceptable under god's law. I have to assume that some deficiency in their lives prompts them to do what they do but I don't take comfort in that either. basically it is just icky behavior that makes me squirm in my chair.
posted by aydeejones at 8:07 AM on February 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you can understand why someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in the context of rape, then I think you could at least attempt to comprehend who someone would be extremely offended at victim-blaming language in this context, which some of us believe is another example of sexual assault.


"some of us"? Do you mean...you? I didn't find it extremely offensive. For one, understanding why someone would be offended is not the kind of intellectualized distance that is possible for me when it comes to sexual assault. For two, I called it irritating and unnecessary and said that I didn't appreciate it. The fact that you chose to use my comment as a rhetorical tool is really, really not on. I'm done with you and this particular topic.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:39 AM on February 28, 2012


This question reminded me of the innumerable stories I hear ALL the time of professors hitting on their new grad students. The power differential, age differential, and general dynamic of these relationships makes it SO unequal, and so many universities turn such a blind eye to it. Academia should be on the cutting edge of issues like sexism and sexual harassment, yet in many cases they lag behind in the worst ways.

To my mind that dynamic makes castigating the young, naive grad students attacking Exactly the wrong part of the problem.
posted by ldthomps at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think the power difference was ancillary, or that it needed to have been explicitly stated for it to have come into play

Of course this is true. But the whole point of this MetaTalk was to ask people to stop presuming things about AskMe questions. In particular, we're being asked to not assume that the OP knew her supervisor was married, which any reasonable reading of the question reveals to be a remote possibility.

including the OP's sense of betrayal, which looks entitled to those who think the power difference does not matter, and looks like a recognition of the full violation to those who think the power difference matters.

I think this is really a false dichotomy. I think the power difference matters, but that violation is putting things really strongly. Remember that the OP feels betrayed not because he was married, and not because he ended the relationship, but because she found out that he had cheated on his wife with other women besides the OP. I actually think that his behavior was absolutely not ok here, and is obviously much worse than hers.

Anyway, I didn't answer the original Ask for all the reasons I've outlined here, so I should probably leave this alone. It wasn't my intention to use the grey to say things I refrained from saying on the green.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:14 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree with you. I don't think the power difference was ancillary, or that it needed to have been explicitly stated for it to have come into play.

Except the OP explicitly stated that it didn't come into play:

I have no intention of finding a new supervisor -- this one does a good job, is attentive, is helpful, pushes me to work hard, etc. We have a very collegial relationship ... we resumed our collegial relationship and it has been fine for over a year now... Clearly, I am talking about consenting adults. There is no forced stuff or unwanted sexual harassment.

I think it's pretty offensive to assume the OP is a victim when they repeatedly insist they aren't.
posted by spaltavian at 9:53 AM on February 28, 2012


Really? Offended?

I didn't say the OP was a victim, I said the power relationship cannot be disentangled from what went on here. Your outrage, conveniently deployed to bolster your preferred story, does not change my mind. Neither does the OP's statements. It isn't that I don't trust the OP, or doubt them, I'm just not convinced they fully understood the situation as it was happening. Indeed, their question is predicated on their realization that they did not.
posted by OmieWise at 10:21 AM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree with the general principle of not making too many assumptions. But we can't have a draconian rule against reading between the lines at all. We can safely assume that if she had been unaware he was married at the time, she would have pointed that out in her very long post.
posted by John Cohen at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2012


> haven't we all slept with a married man a time or two? glass houses etc.

This is not a subject on which I claim any special expertise, but what I have observed is that a married man, and a married man who is supervising you and other women at the workplace are two totally different things. In the first place almost everybody is uncomfortable and a lot of people gossip about it but nobody gets all that angry. In the second place almost all the other women in the office are pissed as shit.
posted by bukvich at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: a sort of joy out of scolding people on the internet
posted by theora55 at 2:35 PM on February 28, 2012


These two statements drove my answers, even though I didn't reference them in the thread directly:

"Then my supervisor abruptly stopped emailing me, and I was eventually told that he was going to spend time on his work and family (oh yeah, married supervisor)."

AND

"In fact, there was a lawsuit a few years ago, which did not affect my supervisor's job in any way."

----

The supervisor dumped the OP out of the blue. Two years later, the OP still craves drama with the supervisor. OP is stuck in a situation that ended two years ago. Geesh. What do you say to someone like?

From my reading, the OP didn't associate their "stuck-ness" with their own choices. And since there is no real way to address this with the supervisor, the OP must confront themselves to end this internal dialogue about something long ago over and done with.

Additionally, either the supervisor was having his emails + general conduct monitored (thanks to the previous lawsuit) so that higher-ups approached him to end it with the OP -or- the supervisor ended it with the OP on his own. Either way, the supervisor ended things before they got out of hand. Further, he's been appropriate towards the OP since returning to his professional role after ending their private interactions.

---

Frankly, for someone otherwise intelligent, the OP sounds like someone who dodged a bullet and is now looking a gift horse in the mouth, or maybe like someone who wants to drive their sports car (career) into a brick wall (confrontation/outing/shaming supervisor) for no good result.



I thought the tone of the commenters in that thread (including mine) were appropriate to the tone-deaf narrative the OP laid out in the question.
posted by jbenben at 6:46 PM on February 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


In answering AskMes, can we please try harder.
posted by theora55 at 10:56 PM on February 28, 2012



The "Geesh. 'What do you say to someone like?"'dodging bullets' 'driving their sports car into a wall' 'craving drama' or 'tone deaf' is harsh. The AskMe OP is probably reading this Meta thread. Do we need to hear an even harsher comments than the ones posted in-thread? There are kinder ways to express the idea that the OP could work on re-configuring her/his emotions. Real people are present behind the keyboard and screen.

'Over and done with' is how her supervisor might view the situation, but the problem we were presented with in the AskMe is that the emotions caused by these actions are very present, [as is his married status and ongoing consorting behaviour with colleagues.] I relate to the frustration the OP expresses but stayed out of that thread - I didn't want to get personal or ranty about bosses having responsibility and experience to provide a safe work environment for their supervis-ees, whether they are married or not.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


In answering AskMes, can we please try harder not to make presumptions that are absent from the question's details, especially if we are using that presumption as a jumping-off point to scold the asker?

Oh god, I so very, very, very agree with this.

I'm glad someone else has noticed what I've noticed. What I think is going on is that people will see gaps in the details, and then fill those gaps with their own personal narrative. This is especially a problem with contentious topics -- like, oh, I dunno, NEARLY EVERY HUMAN RELATIONS QUESTION. People will charge into the thread assuming the worst about the OP, and then proceed to act as if the OP is the person who they once had to deal with in their own lives.

What I would like to see is for people to start giving the OP the benefit of the doubt. Or, barring that, how about we admit that WE DON'T KNOW THESE PEOPLE. If a given detail is not supplied, that doesn't mean it's time to start injecting your own assumptions. There are things we don't know simply because that information is not given, and it's not fair to just start making assumptions based on your own anecdata. ESPECIALLY when making those assumptions causes you to let loose with the "tough love".

Also, I'd love to see people lay off on the armchair Freudianism. I've seen so many questions derailed by a poor turn of phrase, or some commenter trying to devine the "true intention" of the OP by analyzing their word choice. I mean, occasionally this is valid, but I would like it in general if people just took a step back and realized that different people have vastly different communication styles, and sometimes are not that great at communicating what they're trying to say. Or maybe they didn't anticipate that someone in the audience would have a certain association with a given word or phrase. Either way, how about we actually listen to what the OP is trying to communicate, instead of just picking apart their words?

I mostly see these problems in Human Relations questions. Rarely do people flip out over "How do I fix my Mac?"
posted by Afroblanco at 10:32 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco, you sound like you have abandonment issues, have you considered therapy? That might help you realize you need to DTMFA.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


"In answering AskMes, can we please try harder not to make presumptions that are absent from the question's details, especially if we are using that presumption as a jumping-off point to scold the asker?"

I know this conversation is no longer on the first page and so it's basically over, but I wanted to add one more thing...

DU wrote above that they asked an anonymous Human Relations question and folks in the thread added shit that wasn't there, then later, commenters expanded on the presumptions like they were fact.. Yeah. I TOTALLY remember that thread. I was so confused trying to figure out WTF people were talking about there! And I saw it happen today, too, in another Askme I did not post an answer to.

Pulling shit out of your ass and making up a scenario that is not at all portrayed in the question is NOT the same as re-framing statements an OP makes so that they can see a different perspective.

Furthermore

I immediately realized after I wrote my original answer that it came off a bit "preachy" and I addressed that directly in my follow-up answer and apologized. Ragged Richard, above, pointed out that the OP took the options of "no contact" and/or changing supervisors off the table, and that claiming responsibility for the disturbing situation (and therefore re-claiming some power over the outcome) might be helpful for the OP. I don't see another answer there, honestly.

Personally and privately, I was really bothered by the fact that the supervisor put the breaks on the situation himself, and yet the OP kinda blew past the significance of this. It's a big deal because it hints at all types of things going on behind the scenes (perhaps the wife found out and freaked out, or the supervisor felt guilt and tried to do the "right thing" on his own, or maybe the company/organization was already monitoring the situation and acted to protect the OP... and/or some combo of all this...) But to touch upon that would have been the "presumption" that mreleganza complained of via this MeTa. I contained my answers in the thread to concrete perspectives that might ease the OP's "blinding rage." I also apologized for being preachy in my follow-up.

In no way do I think I was enjoying being "brutally honest." Rather, when someone is stuck in an old groove for two years, a groove that is hurting them -- I guess I just don't know what to say except, "Hey! Snap out of it!"

Wasn't trying to be scold-y or brutal. Was trying to draw a firm distinction between ideas for the OP to think about.



I did try hard to be helpful. As always.
posted by jbenben at 12:26 AM on March 1, 2012


I saw it happen today, too, in another Askme I did not post an answer to.

I am fairly certain that I know exactly what question you are talking about... the one where the woman is thinking about leaving her relationship, mentions that she can't see herself with this man long term, talks about not wanting children with him in some generalized form and people presumed she was talking about leaving not just her marriage but her kids and they lost their minds. Which, hey, leaving a family is serious business and I can see that for a lot of people it's a bigger deal than talking just about leaving a relationship. But from my mile-high view it wasn't clear if she had kids or not, sort of a vague part of the question. So people not only interpreted in in one way but then they decided to bitch at her for their own interpretation.

I get how this happens, people don't realize they're filling in some of the blanks in other people's questions or situations. In fact, they may not even be aware that there are blanks being filled in. That may be a sort of optical illusion that we can't honestly see clearly. However what I think we can do is assume that we don't know everything, that our worst case scenario is likely not the most accurate interpretation of events and even if it is, the OP needs some advice and assistance and you can offer some or if the issue is too close to home and you can't read or respond to the question without it making you furious, just move on.

In short: no one should answer a question while furious. I am comfortable saying that the site would not suffer at all if people could either not answer or compose themselves and then answer. Too many people read their own scenarios into other people's questions and once people start saying stuff like "Don't be a fucking asshole and leave them like my parent did!" I think it's sort of clear that maybe this is more about the answerer than the asker.

We've had some people leave over the past few months because their questions went somewhat poorly in AskMe. In some cases I think maybe people's expectations were too high, but I've been thinking about this topic in a general sense more recently. People need to get better at being able to question assumptions without going on the offensive, calling people names or otherwise getting on their soapbox and lecturing people. This is also easier if people don't ask their questions while they're super emotional so that other people don't maybe read things in to their tone that are the result of strong at-the-moment feelings and not the gravitas of the whole situation. In short: we could all do better.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:21 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, jessamyn, if you are still reading this... I also had an anonymous AskMe that went sideways - but it was my fault because I was trying so hard to shield the subject of the problem - it happened in a big city and was a publicly attended event I was attempting to paint as sorta corporate and project-like.

I did not take the "off" inferences to my question seriously or personally because I knew I had built that ambiguity into the question. Also, someone did "nail it" - so it wasn't a total loss. The person who nailed it wrote a lot of detail, so it wasn't like they were just saying what I wanted to hear. This person did seem to ignore other previous off-base answers, though, so that helped.

---

I feel like Anonymous AskMe questions are often just an extension of the "Reading Comprehension" tests we used to take in school as children.

---

I like that other members correct the imperfections via comments in-thread or by flagging. I do not think there is a better method for this site, as the only other solution I can think of requires 24/7 minute attention and 100% reading comprehension, which is simply impossible on any level.

I like that members are responsible for the wording of their own AskMe questions that they submit.

It sets a higher standard. That is all.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 PM on March 2, 2012


« Older mediaplex in effex   |   Fly your favorite flag Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments